BJP's Shivraj Singh Chouhan took oath as the Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh, on March 23.(ANI File Photo)
BJP's Shivraj Singh Chouhan took oath as the Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh, on March 23.(ANI File Photo)

Spurt in Covid-19 cases sees transfers of officials in Madhya Pradesh; chief minister should go, says Congress

A day after he took oath as chief minister, Shivraj Singh Chouhan shifted chief secretary Gopal Reddy. However, it had nothing to do with any Covid-19 situation.
Hindustan Times, Bhopal | By Ranjan | Edited by: Amit Chaturvedi
UPDATED ON MAY 21, 2020 08:30 AM IST

The Madhya Pradesh government on Wednesday transferred Khandwa district collector and superintendent of police, a day after the small border town with Maharashtra saw 90 new Covid-19 patients in a span 24 hours.

The Collector, 2010-batch IAS officer Tanvi Sundriyal, was replaced with another 2010-batch IAS officer Anay Dwivedi and was posted as a deputy secretary in the state secretariat, chief secretary Iqbal Singh Bains ordered.

A 2012-batch IPS officer, Shiv Dayal, was replaced by another 2012-batch officer and commander of Special Armed Force’s 7th battalion Vivek Singh. Dayal will be new commander of the battalion, a Home department order said.

These officers are not alone to have faced axe for spike in Covid-19 cases.

On May 4, collector of Ujjain, Shashank Mishra, and on May 7, SP Sachin Atulkar were shifted when the city became a Covid-19 hotspot with the death rate being highest among big cities.

Indore, the neighbouring district of Ujjain, saw a similar situation earlier when its collector Lokesh Jatav was shifted and replaced with Manish Singh on March 28. Three days later, Indore police chief deputy inspector general (DIG) of police Ruchivardhan Mishra was shifted to a smaller district in the region.

However, when Indore collector was shifted, the city had not become a Covid-19 hotspot but virus was spreading fast in certain localities.

A day after he took oath as chief minister, Shivraj Singh Chouhan shifted chief secretary Gopal Reddy. However, it had nothing to do with any Covid-19 situation. Reddy was replaced with Iqbal Singh Bains, Chouhan’s trusted officer, who had been the principal secretary during his previous term as the CM. Reddy was shifted barely a week after his appointment.

Then commissioner, health services, Prateek Hajela, was shifted on April 1 - an unusual instance of the state government making public the CM’s displeasure with an officer for not able to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic.

A tweet from the state government on April 1 evening said, “Chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan instructed immediate removal of Prateek Hajela from the post of commissioner, health services on his extreme carelessness towards his duties amid the Covid-19 pandemic.”

The other notable transfers in health department include that of principal secretary, health department, Pallavi Govil Jain and National Health Mission (NHM)’s integrated disease surveillance programme (IDSP) director, Swati Meena Nayak. The chief medical and health officers of Bhopal, Ujjain and Khandwa were also transferred. All these officers were involved in tackling Covid-19 situation.

Public health expert Amulya Nidhi said, “Frequent transfers are no solutions. Indore has become one of major Covid-19 hotspot in the country despite transfers. In Bhopal there are no transfers of collector and DIG police but it is still a major Covid spot in the country. Integrated disease surveillance programme (IDSP) team in health department has seen changes at least thrice. The government must think beyond transfers to see where the problem lies. The fact is the government relies more on bureaucrats than the doctors and those officials who have knowledge of medicines. It’s pandemic, not a riot situation.”

The state Congress has launched an attack on the government.

State Congress president’s media coordinator Narendra Saluja asked, “If inefficiency is the reason behind these transfers then why chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan should not go from his post under whose leadership the state government failed to control coronavirus in the state and almost entire state has been affected by the disease except five districts? The entire state has earned a bad name as it is one of the worst managed states in the country. Either Chouhan should step down or the Prime Minister Narendra Modi should remove him immediately.”

Despite efforts chief secretary Iqbal Singh Bains and director general of police (DGP) Vivek Johri couldn’t be reached for their comments. They didn’t take phone calls and didn’t respond to messages.

However, former chief secretary of Madhya Pradesh KS Sharma said, “Though transfers of officials from any district may not appear a solution immediately, it all depends on the perception of the state government about the particular situation. If a government feels that any officer or officers have failed to control any situation it sends other officers to address the particular situation. The government might have felt that the lockdown restrictions were not complied with strictly in these districts and protocol followed, hence the transfers.”

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